Get a Healthy Christmas Tree and Help Keep Your Neighborhood Trees Healthy
Many species of trees important to holiday traditions are being harmed by invasive insects, including the emerald ash borer recently detected in North Andover.
BOSTON, MA | December 13, 2013
For many, trees are an important part of the Christmas tradition and warm memories. It’s the rare time when we bring whole trees into our homes. We also may have a warm fire of logs in the fireplace. Christmas breakfast might include syrup from maple trees. Presents are wrapped in paper from trees, and many of our gifts are made of wood.
Unfortunately, many of the trees that provide these traditions are under attack from non-native, invasive insects.
For example, fir trees are very popular Christmas trees, and several species of fir trees are under attack from the balsam woolly adelgid, a tiny bug that distorts tree growth that can kill the tree.
Maple trees, which provide syrup for our pancakes, are under attack from the non-native invasive Asian longhorned beetle. This insect kills maples (and many other species of trees), which could seriously impact the maple syrup producers in the Northeast.
And, maybe one of those presents under the Christmas tree is made from white ash—a baseball bat, a sled or toboggan? A insect called the emerald ash borer is killing ash trees, and folks who grow trees for baseball bats are having to consider other types of trees to make bats. Only days ago, Massachusetts officials announced that the insect had been found for the first time in eastern Massachusetts, in North Andover.
Each of us can help, though, during the holiday season. Here are our five tips for getting a healthy Christmas tree and keeping your neighborhood trees healthy:
- Buy real, not plastic. When you support tree farms, you support businesses that provide the clean air and water we need.
- Buy reputable, meaning a tree from a local, well-established tree seller. That could be your local hardware store, the nearby nursery, or some other well-established business. An established seller is far more likely to have proper permits and inspections for their trees.
- Buy resilient, healthy trees. Run your hand along the branches— they should be flexible and springy. If many needles are falling off that suggests a tree that was cut too soon or is unhealthy. A dry tree may not last very long and can create a fire hazard in your home.
- Dispose of your tree safely. When Christmas is over, don’t just toss it in the backyard to sit around. If there are any invasive bugs on the tree, - they may spread to trees in your yard or neighborhood. Search for local municipal tree collectors who will properly chip and dispose of the tree.
- Don’t move firewood! Remember that warm toasty fire? Make sure those logs came from a nearby area. Transporting firewood for long distances can spread invasive pests and start a new infestation in your neighborhood. Instead, buy your firewood from a local, reputable seller or burn it on the property where it was cut. (This also applies to camping. When you go camping, don’t bring your firewood with you. Buy it at or near the campsite.) Visit www.dontmovefirewood.org for more information.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.